Summer is right on our heels here in Santa Barbara and watermelon is THE fruit of summer. This sweet and hydrating fruit is an irresistible treat in warm weather.
Watermelon was first cultivated about 5,000 years ago in Africa (likely north-eastern Africa) where it was introduced to the Mediterranean region and then Europe. The watermelons during these times had not yet been cultivated into what we know today as a red, sweet fruit with a crisp texture. Rather, it was green and bitter to the taste and had very hard flesh necessitating the need to beat it to a pulp for consumption. Initially, it likely was grown and eaten because of its high water content and ability to keep long periods of time. Today, what we eat are watermelons bred for their sweetness, juiciness, redness and tender but crisp flesh.
That brief history of watermelon may have been a bit surprising to you if you aren’t already a watermelon connoisseur. Likely, watermelon’s nutritional benefits may be new to you as well! Watermelons contain wonderful key vitamins and minerals such as Vitamin A, Vitamin C, potassium, and lycopene. According to the Food and Nutrition May/June 2017 issue watermelon contains 17% of the daily value for vitamin A and 20% of the daily value of vitamin C in a one cup serving. Vitamin A is essential for healthy retinal function and body development. Both vitamins are necessary for a healthy immune system. Watermelon also contains 170 milligrams of potassium in a one cup serving which helps regulate blood pressure, aids with proper muscle contraction, and ensures proper nerve function amongst many other benefits. Last but not least, watermelon contains a large amount of lycopene. Lycopene is what gives typical watermelons their red color. Lycopene helps with arterial health and eye health.
Watermelon is both a delicious and healthy fruit that has shown to provide countless nutritional benefits. Not only is it nutritious- but it’s also irresistibly sweet and juicy! These tasty qualities make it perfect for eating by the slice or using it for countless recipes. So head down to your local farmer’s market and buy a watermelon or two so you can try out one of the delicious recipes below- or concoct your own recipe!
Watermelon–Ancho Chile Salsa
Published August 2015, Recipe by Rick Martinez
2 ancho chiles, seeds removed
¼ small seedless watermelon, cut into 1-inch pieces (about 2½ cups)
½ large beefsteak tomato, chopped
¼ small red onion, chopped
½ jalapeño, with seeds, chopped
1 garlic clove, smashed
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
Salt to taste
Bring chiles and 2 cups water to a boil in a small saucepan. Remove from heat, cover, and let sit until chiles soften, 25–30 minutes. Transfer chiles to a blender with a slotted spoon; discard liquid. Add watermelon, tomato, onion, jalapeño, garlic, and lime juice and blend until smooth; season with salt. Cover and chill.
Prepare Ahead: Salsa can be made 8 hours ahead. Keep chilled.